The Opium War

Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China

3.87 based on 359 ratings & 55 reviews on

‘A gripping read as well as an important one.’ Rana Mitter, Guardian

In October 1839, Britain entered the first Opium War with China. Its brutality notwithstanding, the conflict was also threaded with tragicomedy: with Victorian hypocrisy, bureaucratic fumblings, military missteps, political opportunism and collaboration. Yet over the past hundred and seventy years, this strange tale of misunderstanding, incompetence and compromise has become the founding episode of modern Chinese nationalism.

Starting from this first conflict, The Opium War explores how China’s national myths mould its interactions with the outside world, how public memory is spun to serve the present, and how delusion and prejudice have bedevilled its relationship with the modern West.

‘Lively, erudite and meticulously researched’ Literary Review

‘An important reminder of how the memory of the Opium War continues to cast a dark shadow.’ Sunday Times

About Julia Lovell

Julia Lovell teaches modern Chinese history at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is the author of The Opium War: Drugs, Drama And The Making Of China, The Great Wall: China Against the World and The Politics of Cultural Capital: China’s Quest for a Nobel Prize in Literature and writes on China for the Guardian, Independent and The Times Literary Supplement. Her many translations of modern Chinese fiction include, most recently, Lu Xun’s The Real Story of Ah-Q, and Other Tales of China.

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